Is the Power 5 Era Over in College Football?
Expansion has been the dominant conversation in the college football landscape for years---just not this type of expansion.
On Wednesday, July 20, the Houston Chronicle dropped a bombshell of a report that Oklahoma and Texas inquired the SEC about potentially joining perhaps the richest conference in football.
Within a span of 48 hours, both schools asked about leaving the Big 12 and then reports confirmed that the Red River Rivals will inform the conference they do not intend to renew their grants-to-rights agreement, which expires in 2025, setting up one of the most pivotal years in college football history.
Meanwhile, the NCAA is attempting to handle name, image and likeness policies and decide on potentially moving to a 12-team playoff by 2023.
So does this mean the “Power 5” will be ancient history? Certainly looks that way.
For years, the SEC has been near or at the top of the college football landscape. From 2010 to 2020, seven national champions have come from the SEC with Nick Saban and Alabama winning five within that span.
The last time a Big 12 won the national championship? 2005 in the greatest college football game to date when Vince Young and Texas dethroned Reggie Bush, Matt Leinhart and University of Southern California, the defending champions that year.
Beyond the Big 12’s lack of success these specific schools (OU and UT) have had little success as a team on the national stage. Texas has never even GOTTEN to a national championship in the CFP era while Oklahoma has produced Heisman winners, but the Sooners are 0-4 in CFP games.
So, if these teams have been virtually irrelevant for the last decade plus, why go to the hardest conference that hosts Saban, the greatest coach in college football history, among a plethora of hungry programs seeking bounce back years?
Like everything with college athletics, it comes down to the good ol’ Benny Franklins. Tradition be damned.
The fact of the matter is that these programs across athletics don’t give a damn about their athletes, faculty, or communities as long as the cash keeps coming in.
Last year, the Big 12 paid each of its schools $34.5 million from the total revenue generated. Pretty good check, right? Not good enough.
The SEC dished out roughly $45 million to its programs, according to CBSSports.com in addition to $23 million in supplemental funds.
Clearly, the administrators see the large paycheck but what does this to do the structure of college football long term?
As hard as it is to admit, the track of college football appears to be 16-team conferences and with the impending dissipation of the Big 12, respectable programs such as Iowa State, Baylor, and Oklahoma State will all likely be looking for new homes.
Furthermore, Group of 5 programs will be making pushes to solidify themselves as major programs. Cincinnati and Coastal Carolina will be the two obvious candidates at the forefront due to their spectacular 2020 campaigns, but could we see lesser known programs such as UCF, SMU or Memphis make pushes into the Big 10 or even the ACC?
Everything is in play and Oklahoma and Texas leaving will just be the first domino, but one thing is for sure: nothing will be the same.
My pitch? Just bring back the Southwest Conference. With NIL laws already on the horizon, just let all the boosters loose and see what happens. After all, It can’t get much worse.